Give me Liberty or give me Death

After some thousands (exact number remains unknown) of refugees fled post-war Gaza strip, numerous families await in agony for any kind of news regarding their loved ones. This work sheds light on the personal stories of those who left Gaza, those who stayed behind and those who died trying.

This is a testament of those, uprooted by war who were forced to ultimately equal Death with Liberty. 


And if I don’t succeed I will try again. And then again. I will try to reach freedom until I die.” 

AMAR ABU ASSI – escaped, arrested and returned to Gaza




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SAAD ZA’NEEN – lost his house

Silhouettes of improvised tents draw up in a distance as blankets are spread over few poles, fixed in unstable soil. In front of one tent lays a man, a chain leads from his ankle to a wooden bench. “Don’t wake him up”, warns older woman coming from the tent. “Sa’d is my son, he’s asleep and let him sleep. When he is awake he is suffers.” She introduces herself as his mother. “Sa’d is mentally disturbed, but until the war, we didn’t have to chain him like he would be an animal! That ruins you see if you turn around, were our house once. Now we don’t have a home. Before the war, Sa’d was kept in his room, but what is left for us to do here? We live in this tent, about a kilometer from border with Israel. We cannot let Sa’d to roam freely, as he could get shot by snipers. He is chained here for his own safety! I don’t even want to tell you anything more, even if you will publish our story, nothing will change for us”. As she would lose thousands of battles each day, she stooped and angrily moved back into the tent.



FATIMA ASFOUR – lost her sons

If there would exist a list of missing people, two sons of Ms. Fatima Asfour from Khan Younis would be included on it. With hands full of motherly love and heart full of agony, she clenched photos of her two lost sons; Ahmed (25) and Ramez (26). “Ramez was an artist, but his work was not fruitful. I tried to help him by organizing exhibitions, but no one cared for it. He lost all anticipations. Ahmed got wounded during Cast Lead offensive but couldn’t get appropriate treatment here. They both had Europe on their minds.” Last time she spoke with them was on 6th of September. “They tried to reach to my sons and to others migrants but they never ask what pushed them into fleeing. We in Gaza live under occupation, this entire situation is a crime against humanity!”, she was angered. A soft and warm sunlight shines through a window of once beautiful house, revealing the reasons for their escape. In a middle of the damaged room, next to a broken table lies a canvas with unfinished painting on it. Ramez’ auto portrait. Like his life out of Gaza, it is left unfinished.


RA’AD ASFOUR – drowned

In a town of Khan Younis, in south eastern Gaza one would have a difficulty finding a home, where refugees didn’t try to flee or they don’t contemplate doing so in the future. In a living room of house of next to Ms. Fatima’s home, a portrait is hanging on a wall in a living room. It’s a commemoration portrait of Rae’ed Asfour. He was a 12-years-old victim of war, who was like Amar, on rehabilitation in Slovenia. At the time of his nerve system treatment there, he wrote a letter to a Slovenian magazine: ”My surname (Asfour) translates to “a bird” from Arabic. But I cannot fly or even move freely. I don’t want people to look at me with pity. I just want them to sympathize with me, and help me to feel I am normal like other children around the world. I use internet to communicate with the outside world and I wish to live like a bird and enjoy our basic rights. Palestine-Slovenia.” On September 6, Rae’ed tried to fly. Instead, his hopes of a better life with his father in Norway drowned along with him in the Mediterranean Sea. He was in the ship which was rammed it by human traffickers and sank with about 500 refugees to the bottom of the sea.


AMAR ABU ASSI – escaped, arrested and returned to Gaza

He lost his both legs in an attack by a drone during the military operation Cast Lead on Gaza in year 2008. He had no possibility of an adequate treatment in Gaza as its health system has been on a verge of collapse due to Israeli- Egyptian blockade. It was October 2012, when he was included in a rehabilitation program in Slovenia, where he received his prostheses. After rehabilitation in Slovenia, proudly dressed in FC Barcelona jersey and having his black hair waxed, he returned back to Gaza in November, where he was welcomed by Israeli offensive »Pillars of defense« that lasted for 8 days. Now almost completely worn out and because he thinned over time, Amar has to fill prostheses from the sides with rags to be able to use them. In the last war in 2014, F-16 destroyed his already half-built house. Amar couldn’t take it anymore-under the rubble of his home to be, lied his future and any hopes of trying to live in Gaza. He took only his two artificial legs with him as he left Gaza on a wheelchair at the beginning of September. In less than a week he reached the coast of Libya. If luck ever shone on Amar in the darkest of times it was there. His boat, carrying people to the mother ship that was gathering refugees heading towards Europe was intercepted by navy (apparently Libya still has one). He was arrested and swiftly returned to Gaza. Where was his luck in all of this? The ship he was intending to reach has capsized. Over 200 people died. Glow of ember that Amar cooked tea on, illuminates his brown, a bit muddled eyes, as he tells how he fled Gaza: “I paid 2500 US dollars for a fake passport with forged visas in it to make it look less suspicious,” Amar said. “I left Gaza at night through a tunnel with a group of 20-30 people. On the other side cars took us to Alexandria, where we met more refugees. We were split. Some people stayed in Egypt and the rest of us were taken to a town Sallum, from where we crossed into Libya. We had to pay another 500 dollars to a new gang of traffickers. They also charged me for my legs. All the way we were treated very badly. Some people were robbed and left behind. We heard stories about people disappearing in the desert and were terrified.” Amar took a deep breath and shrugged his shoulders. “But you know, all in all it was worth to try. I still want to go to Europe. There I can find work and get new legs.”

Amar’s face turns serious, looks in eyes somehow bring to mind a burned out fireplace where Phoenix will never rise again. He tried to escape on the same day, September 6, when another ship carrying some 500 refugees, sunk off the coast of Malta after being deliberately rammed by human traffickers.

While he pours last drops of tea into cups and puts them on ground covered with cigarette butts, asking Amar how he feels about narrowly escaping death in the Mediterranean on that day, September 6, would be downright pointless. Living in Gaza he narrowly escaped death several times. For him, as for so many others, life in Gaza equals slow death. “Soon I will leave again with another group of people going for Europe,” he announced with determination glowing from his eyes.

“And if I don’t succeed I will try again. And then again. I will try to reach freedom until I die.”